Thursday, April 24, 2014
ORONO — They huddled at center court with smiles and fist-pumps for the first time in a long while.
The University of Maine women's basketball team stopped a 16-game losing streak Thursday night, beating New Hampshire 57-49 before about 600 fans at Alfond Arena.
Maine (3-20, 1-9) won an America East game for the first time by playing inspired defense, holding the Wildcats to 28 percent shooting and outrebounding UNH, 45-37.
It was a simple case of a losing Black Bears team charging onto the floor hungry.
''I tried to tell my players that Maine was going to come to play,'' said UNH Coach Kristin Cole, whose team dropped to 6-18, 4-6. ''Mentally we didn't show up. They played tenacious. They got every loose ball. They played to win.''
It was a team effort for Maine, led by Brittany Boser with 13 points.
Samantha Wheeler scored nine points with five assists. Samantha Baranowski scored nine. Tanna Ross scored eight. Kristin Baker added six points, eight rebounds, four assists and four steals. Colleen Kilmurray recorded five points and nine rebounds.
''It's been a long time but it feels awesome to win,'' Boser said. The losing streak ''was tough. It starts to wear on you. But we kept believing.''
New Hampshire's 6-foot-1 forward, Candace Williams, the third-leading scorer in the league (16.6 average) went 0 of 17 from the field, settling for five free throws.
''She's our top scorer and we can't afford for her to go 0 for anything,'' Cole said. ''It's a credit to Maine. They played very well on her.''
Covering Williams was costly. Wheeler and Kilmurray fouled out, and Boser had four fouls.
But the Black Bears held on. They moved the ball well (17 assists on 20 baskets) and increased a 28-20 halftime lead to 45-30 with 8:18 to play.
UNH made a charge, closing to 45-37. Wheeler was already gone, and Kilmurray fouled out on a blocking call during the Wildcats' comeback. Kilmurray, who already left the game once to get six stitches over a cut above her right eye, was upset, covering her face with her jersey.
The Black Bears gathered around her.
''When we have someone like Colleen, our only senior, show that kind of emotion, it definitely raises all of us up,'' said Boser.
Boser kept UNH from getting closer, with a layup (Ross assist) and four free throws.
UNH guard Amy Simpson (17 points) hit a 3-pointer to close to 51-44 with 1:18 to go, but Amanda Tewksbury responded with a clinching 3-pointer.
''We really looked like we outworked that team,'' Kilmurray said. ''We played 40 minutes.''
Good point, said Maine Coach Cindy Blodgett. ''We've had games where we played 30 minutes, even 35 minutes. But our margin for error is so slim.''
Blodgett singled out Baker, the point guard from Bingham who played 36 minutes: ''She impacts the game every way. What doesn't show up on the stat sheet is her energy level. She plays with a lot of emotion.''
The Black Bears will be home against Maryland-Baltimore County at noon Sunday.
Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at: